Tucker Carlson is very good at anger. He is also very good at self-righteousness. When those two traits mix, you get what the Fox News host displayed on Monday night’s edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: defiance. “We talk a lot on this show about the threat to free speech. It turns out it’s very real,” said Carlson. This was Carlson’s way of opening a discussion of the controversy from last Thursday’s edition, when he said that immigration makes the United States “dirtier” as well as more poor and more divided.
A day later, Pacific Life, which had advertised in the slot just after the “dirtier” segment, announced that it would pull its ads from the program during a period of reevaluation. Since then, several others have made similar announcements. A representative for job site Indeed.com told the Erik Wemple Blog that the company had decided a month ago to no longer advertise on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
At the same time, the parent company of the Bowflex line of fitness equipment has withdrawn, according to the Hollywood Reporter. SmileDirectClub, NerdWallet and Minted have also declared they’ll no longer advertise on the program.
The pullouts thus far won’t cripple “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Laura Keiter, a spokeswoman for Fox News watchdog Media Matters for America, tells the Erik Wemple Blog that 486 brands have placed an ad in 2018 at least once on Carlson’s program. Indeed.com, says Keiter, is among the top 10, with at least 260 ads this year. Some advertisers -- including Farmers Insurance -- have declared that they will not be yanking their spots in response to social media pressure. Fox News last week issued a statement that read, in part, "It is a shame that left-wing advocacy groups, under the guise of being supposed ‘media watchdogs,’ weaponize social media against companies in an effort to stifle free speech.”
Yet Carlson on Monday night gave his sponsors perhaps more incentive to bail. He re-aired his nasty comments from Thursday night, with context:
Our country's economy is becoming more automated and tech-centered by the day, it's obvious that we need more scientists and skilled engineers. But that's not what we're getting. Instead, we're getting waves of people with high school educations or less. Nice people, no one doubts that. But as an economic matter, this is insane.
It’s indefensible so nobody even tries to defend it. Instead, our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poor and dirtier and more divided.
And instead of acknowledging that the “dirtier” claim is harmful and a clear-cut instance of polemical overreach, he went in the opposite direction: “In a fast-evolving economy, it could be preferable to import more engineers and fewer people with low skills, no matter how nice or well-meaning those people might be, and we always assume they are. That’s what we said. That was our claim. And it’s hard to argue with that,” he said. “In fact, nobody in the left did argue with it. They ignored it. Instead, they zeroed in on the last line.”
Yes, Mr. Carlson: When you’re among the leading anchors in U.S. television, each of your words will be scrutinized.
Whining, however, was preferable to what came next, as Carlson attempted to support his “dirtier” claim. Have a look:
You’ve seen it a million times. It happens all the time. The enforcers scream, “Racist,” on Twitter until everybody gets intimidated and change the subject to the Russia investigation or some other distraction. It’s a tactic, a well-worn one. Nobody thinks it’s real. And it won’t work with this show. We’re not intimidated. We plan to try to say what’s true until the last day. And the truth is unregulated mass immigration has badly hurt this country’s natural landscape.
Take a trip to our Southwestern Deserts, if you don’t believe it. Thanks to illegal immigration, huge swaths of the region are covered with garbage and waste that degrade the soil and kill wildlife. The Arizona Department of Environment Quality estimates that each illegal border-crosser leaves six to eight pounds of trash during the journey into our country. If you’re interested in more detail, look at the website they’ve created. It’s called Arizona Border Trash. It’s dedicated to highlighting and cleaning up the thousands of tons of garbage strewn across Arizona by illegal immigrants every year.
See what’s happening here? In a typically hateful rant on Fox News, Carlson throws out the random claim that immigration makes the country dirtier. At the time, he didn’t try to back up the claim, though it was clearly a dog-whistle to the racists who watch his show and appreciate any and all slander against immigrant groups. Now that he’s forced to back up the claim, he clambers toward analysis regarding litter rates and declares victory.
People in this country, of course, have varying opinions and perspectives about immigration, as they do about every other topic in public policy. Immigration-the-topic, however, doesn’t divide the country. What divides the country is a television host who tells his right-wing viewers that immigrants are making the place dirtier, and that lefties want them to stream in through open borders. That’s what makes the country “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”
Read more from Erik Wemple: